Extracts from Nietzsche’s “ Thus Spake Zarathustra”
………………………….When, however, he spied about and sought for the comforters of his lonesomeness, behold, there were kine there standing together on an eminence, whose proximity and smell had warmed his heart. The kine, however, seemed to listen eagerly to a speaker, and took no heed of him who approached. When, however, Zarathustra was quite nigh unto them, then did he hear plainly that a human voice spake in the midst of the kine, and apparently all of them had turned their heads towards the speaker.
Then ran Zarathustra up speedily and drove the animals aside; for he feared that someone had here met with harm, which the pity of the kine would hardly be able to relieve. But in this he was deceived; for behold, there sat a man on the ground who seemed to be persuading the animals to have no fear of him, a peaceable man and Preacher-on-the-Mount, out of whose eyes kindness itself preached.
“What dost thou seek here?” called out Zarathustra in astonishment.
“What do I here seek?” answered he: “the same that thou seekest, thou mischief-maker; that is to say, happiness upon earth. To that end, however, I would fain learn of these kine. For I tell thee that I have already talked half a morning unto them, and just now were they about to give me their answer. Why dost thou disturb them?
Except we be converted and become as kine, we shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. For we ought to learn from them one thing: ruminating. And verily, although a man should gain the whole world, and yet not learn one thing, ruminating, what would it profit him! He would not be rid of his affliction, –His great affliction: that, however, is at present called DISGUST. Who hath not at present his heart, his mouth and his eyes full of disgust? Thou also! Thou also! But behold these kine!”– Thus spake the Preacher-on-the-Mount, and turned then his own look towards Zarathustra–for hitherto it had rested lovingly on the kine–: then, however, he put on a different expression. “Who is this with whom I talk?” he exclaimed frightened, and sprang up from the ground.
…………………………”Speak not of me, thou strange one; thou amiable one!” said Zarathustra, and restrained his affection, “speak to me firstly of thyself! Art thou not the voluntary beggar who once cast away great riches,–Who was ashamed of his riches and of the rich, and fled to the poorest to bestow upon them his abundance and his heart? But they received him not.“
“But they received me not,” said the voluntary beggar, “thou knowest it, forsooth. So I went at last to the animals and to those kine.” “Then learnedst thou,” interrupted Zarathustra, “how much harder it is to give properly than to take properly, and that bestowing well is an ART–the last, subtlest master-art of kindness.”
………………………….I flee away further and ever further, until I came to those kine.” Thus spake the peaceful one, and puffed himself and perspired with his words: so that the kine wondered anew. Zarathustra, however, kept looking into his face with a smile, all the time the man talked so severely–and shook silently his head.
“Thou doest violence to thyself, thou Preacher-on-the-Mount, when thou usest such severe words. For such severity neither thy mouth nor thine eye have been given thee. Nor, methinketh, hath thy stomach either: unto IT all such rage and hatred and foaming-over is repugnant. Thy stomach wanteth softer things: thou art not a butcher.
Rather seemest thou to me a plant-eater and a root-man. Perhaps thou grindest corn. Certainly, however, thou art averse to fleshly joys, and thou lovest honey.” “Thou hast divined me well,” answered the voluntary beggar, with lightened heart. “I love honey, I also grind corn; for I have sought out what tasteth sweetly and maketh pure breath: –Also what requireth a long time, a day’s-work and a mouth’s-work for gentle idlers and sluggards.
Furthest, to be sure, have those kine carried it: they have devised ruminating and lying in the sun. They also abstain from all heavy thoughts which inflate the heart.” –“Well!” said Zarathustra, “thou shouldst also see MINE animals, mine eagle and my serpent,–their like do not at present exist on earth. Behold, thither leadeth the way to my cave: be to-night its guest. And talk to mine animals of the happiness of animals,– –Until I myself come home. For now a cry of distress calleth me hastily away from thee. Also, shouldst thou find new honey with me, ice-cold, golden-comb-honey, eat it! Now, however, take leave at once of thy kine, thou strange one! thou amiable one! though it be hard for thee.
For they are thy warmest friends and preceptors!”– –“One excepted, whom I hold still dearer,” answered the voluntary beggar. “Thou thyself art good, O Zarathustra, and better even than a cow!” “Away, away with thee! thou evil flatterer!” cried Zarathustra mischievously, “why dost thou spoil me with such praise and flattery-honey?
“Away, away from me!” cried he once more, and heaved his stick at the fond beggar, who, however, ran nimbly away.
Nietzsche’s writings have been taken out of context through subjection to rigorous logical analysis. And that’s to be expected considering his contradictory nature. Though there are gaps here and there, I have no difficulty at all understanding this particular book. Nietzsche chiefly wrote this book in symbolic language like all religious texts. The things he speaks of should never be taken literal. For instance when he speaks of kine and eagles and serpents, he was speaking of humans with the dullness of mind of such bovine animals as oxen. And speaking of eagles and serpents, one knows how agile and cunning these creatures are in contrast to oxen.
In this chapter (The Voluntary Beggar) , clearly, Nietzsche was parodying “the sermon on the mount” in the Bible, (Except we be converted and become as kine, we shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. For we ought to learn from them one thing: ruminating. And verily, although a man should gain the whole world, and yet not learn one thing, ruminating, what would it profit him!)
He substituted the sheep for the kine – which nonetheless meant the same thing – people lacking shrewdness or mental quickness and who avoid heavy thoughts that trouble the heart. Nietzsche has been known to parody the Bible on several occasions. In his days, it was made clear to him by the Protestant Church that he will never be offered employment because of his attitude to Christianity. That may have aggravated his life condition.
When Nietzsche spoke of “the voluntary beggar,” he was referring, I’m afraid, to the Christian Messiah. In the Bible it was written that when Jesus was thirty he went out to the world and was tempted by the devil thrice. The devil did offer him all the kingdoms and the riches of the world if only he will avow his allegiance to him (the devil) where upon he rejected the offer and the devil departed from him (Art thou not the voluntary beggar who once cast away great riches,–Who was ashamed of his riches and of the rich, and fled to the poorest to bestow upon them his abundance and his heart? But they received him not?)
Afterwards Satan never tempted him again but he became a pauper and lived amongst the poor (his disciples) which was more or less, as implied in this passage, a punishment for sticking to the truth. (Thou doest violence to thyself, thou Preacher-on-the-Mount, when thou usest such severe words. For such severity neither thy mouth nor thine eye have been given thee. Nor, methinketh, hath thy stomach either: unto IT all such rage and hatred and foaming-over is repugnant. Thy stomach wanteth softer things: thou art not a butcher.)
Although it was not written anywhere in the Bible that he made a living by begging for alms, Christ once lamented: “Foxes have lairs and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Thus according to Nietzsche, Christ became a begger by choice. It was a very heathenic thing to say or even think but if you are familiar with Nietzsche’s writings then you shouldn’t be surprised.
He also introduces Zarathustra, an imaginary Persian prophet to the kine at the same time the Christian Messiah was preaching on the mount. Thus an argument ensues between the two prophets while the kine looks on confused as to who is a true prophet. Although this chapter is quite lengthy, it repeatedly expresses the same theme of guardianship. In a broader sense, it also figuratively captures the struggle between eastern and western religions, for the hearts of men – each prophet representing each religion.